Latest News! 15th October, 2020.

Written by  Trygve Roberts

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The week that was

* Trips & Tours update

* Ben 10 V3 Tour Day 3 (Series)

* Great South Africans (Series – #4)

* South African Cities (Series #5)

* Podcast

* Pass of the Week

* Words of Wisdom

Trips & Tours

Mpumalanga Panorama Tour (26th to 30th October) – There are still a few tickets available for this wonderful tour taking in the historic towns and villages as well as the beautiful vistas along the Drakensberg Escarpment. Click here for more info & online bookings.

Wild Coast Tour (12th to 21st November) – Fully booked

Mpumalanga Highveld Tour (23rd to 25th November) Enjoy a leisurely and very affordable tour along the Mpumalanga Highveld guided by Johan Badenhorst. Click here for more info and online bookings.

Atlantis Sand Driving Course (13th December) – Join us for a fun day at Atlantis Dunes, north of Cape Town, as we teach you the fundamentals of soft sand driving. This is the 3rd module of our training programme. Click here to book.

Ben 10 V3 Tour report back: (Series – #3)

Friday 26th September: After two back to back tough driving days, we decided to slot in the easiest day of the tour to give our guests a bit of a break. After the usual slap-up breakfast at Mountain Shadows Hotel, we got the convoy on the move heading NNE to Barkly East and an opportunity to top up on fuel. The R58 along this stretch is a pleasure to drive and at 80 kph, there’s time to take in all the fabulous scenery and of course there are a number of passes along the way – like the Kraai River Pass, Grondnek and Benjaminshoogte. 

Our route for the day was an anti-clockwise circular route taking in Jouberts Pass, Otto du Plessis Pass and the timeless Barkly Pass for the second time on the tour. Just before reaching Benjaminshoogte (where a number of the old railway reverses are located), we took the long, but scenic gravel alternative to Lady Grey via Joubert’s Pass. This lovely drive offers magnificent scenery via a number of old farms, where the Lombardi poplars stand tall against the blue backdrop of towering mountains, where crystal clear streams offer some of the finest fly-fishing in South Africa and where vultures patrol the craggy cliffs for a morsel of food.

There are a number of interesting and graphic road signs along this road – like Kar Wegspoel Drif. Apparently one of the local farmers and his wife got caught in a flash flood coming home after a day’s revelling in Lady Grey and just manged to escape out of their vehicle, before it washed away down the stream. There’s another gulley marked ‘Car Sump Drift’ and one look at the sharp entry angle into the concreted drift easily tells the story that more than one motorist has damaged a sump at this innocuous spot.

The road meanders through valleys, crossing rivers, heading generally northwards, but at the 20 km mark there is an abrupt change of direction into the west and this also marks the start of the eastern climb up Joubert’s Pass. This approach is actually quite gentle with fairly easy gradients and the road is mostly in a reasonable condition. 

The 2234m high summit point comes up almost as a surprise and suddenly you are looking down a 550m drop with distant views over the town of Lady Grey. The summit point is a windy place. Of the half dozen times I have driven this pass, there was only one occasion when the weather was calm. On this year’s Ben 10 Tour, there was an icy wind at the summit, which limited the photo/leg stretch stop to under two minutes as it was 5C.

A few kilometres down the western side of the pass, a small sign, propped up by a short dry-packed stone wall, pronounces the spot as “Ian se Afgrond” (Ian’s Abyss). The Ian in question, is Ian Cloete (a local) who in his younger days, took his mom’s Audi for a spin up and down the pass with a few school friends. He was in Std 7 at the time and 14 years old. Despite the Audi’s good road holding, the fires of youth, coupled with inexperience, saw the car going over the edge at this makeshift stone wall. The story had a happy ending as all the youngsters survived the crash with the worst injury being a broken arm. The story was confirmed by Ian Cloete himself.

The pass receives regular snowfalls in winter / Lady Grey Tourism

We all made it safely down the pass and after a brief toilet stop in Lady Grey, headed south on the tarred R58 back in the direction of Barkly East. Benjaminshoogte is a great pass, but easily goes unnoticed in the faster flow of traffic, but hidden here  in the folds of the mountains and valleys, are the first six rail reverses. It requires some diligence and local knowledge to know how to get to them. On the southern side of the crossing of the Kraai River at the lowest altitude on this pass, one can easily see another of Joseph Newey’s arched sandstone bridges. This example is no longer in use, but it is still standing perfectly in place more than 120 years after it was constructed.

Closer to Barkly East we said goodbye to the tar and took the gravel R396 southwards. Once again, every neck and valley revealed fabulous scenery. Despite being there just at winter’s end, the area was much greener than during previous visits at the same time of year. After 15 km we took a smaller road, and headed for the Otto du Plessis Pass. Near the northern foot of the pass, we found sufficient parking next to a stream to enjoy an el fresco lunch break, with zero traffic for our entire lunch break. Bliss!

The haul up to the summit is quite an easy drive and within about 12 minutes, the summit appears with a stone memorial structure on either side of the road, paying homage to the politicians and road builders responsible for one of the best gravel passes in South Africa. 

The word spectacular describes this pass perfectly. It has all the elements of a classic gravel road pass of intrigue, danger, amazing views and technical driving. This pass ranks in position 31 nationally in the ‘most altitude gained’ category with a walloping 658 vertical metres! This is one of our favourite passes in the Eastern Cape. The pass is driveable in a normal car in fair weather, but when it rains heavily and the surface gets muddy, you will need a 4×4.  Gravel roads can change overnight, so always take this into consideration before attempting this pass. 

Descending Otto du Plessis Pass / Photo: Trygve RobertsThe pass was named after Dr. Otto du Plessis, a popular political figure at the time and one time Minister of Health. He was born in 1905 and passed away in 1983. There is a hospital near Bredasdorp named after him, as well as the road down the Gamkaskloof to Die Hel, which also officially bears his name. One of the main roads in Cape Town’s Atlantic suburbs is also named the ‘Otto du Plessis Drive’.

The descent is long and winding with a couple of sections that get as steep as 1:6. The views down the pass almost equal the views on Bastervoetpad, but are perhaps more enjoyable as the road surface is so much better, which allows one time and opportunity to look around.

Once down the pass, it was an easy gravel road drive back to Elliot and up the tarred Barkly Pass to our hotel, where we arrived before 5 pm for the first time since the tour started.

Next Week: Geudeon’s Adventures 

Great South Africans

C.J. Langenhoven ~ Cornelis Jacobus Langenhoven (13 August 1873 – 15 July 1932), who published under his initials C.J. Langenhoven, was a South African poet who played a major role in the development of Afrikaans literature and cultural history. His poetry was one of the then young language’s foremost promoters. He is best known to have written the words for the national anthem of South Africa, “Die Stem van Suid-Afrika”, which was used during the apartheid era. He was affectionately known as Sagmoedige Neelsie (Gentle Neelsie) or Kerneels. His childhood friend who helped him get into poetry was called Hans Conradius van Zyl.

Langenhoven was born at Hoeko, near Ladismith, in the then Cape Colony, and later moved to Oudtshoorn where he became its most famous resident. In 1897 he married the widow Lenie van Velden. They had one child, a daughter named Engela, who was born in 1901. By 1914 he became a member of parliament (first as member of The House of Assembly, and later as Senator) where he took the struggle to have Afrikaans officially recognised, to the next level. He was also a founding member of the Afrikaans newspaper Die Burger, and a South African Freemason.

C.J. Langenhoven / Photo: Maroela Media

His most famous work is the former South African national anthem “Die Stem”, which he wrote in 1918. Parts of it have been incorporated into the current national anthem, used since the abolition of apartheid in the 1990s. To celebrate the centenary of his birth, in 1973 the South African Post Office issued a series of stamps (in 4-cent, 5-cent and 15-cent denominations).

Langenhoven’s writing career spanned almost every genre, from poetry to ghost and alien stories. He also translated several works into Afrikaans, amongst these was the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. He was instrumental in the movement for the acceptance of Afrikaans as a language, and for it to be taught as the first language in schools instead of Dutch. This culminated in the language officially being used in parliament in 1925, and by 1927 it was recognised as an official language of South Africa, together with English and Dutch, although it effectively replaced Dutch in general usage.

Considered one of the most versatile writers in Afrikaans, he was a master of the short form of prose and is best remembered for his humorous and satirical works, illustrated by a nonsense-verse “love poem” he wrote for his dog. Langenhoven was well known for his sharp wit and gentle manner. He owned an imaginary elephant named Herrie that appeared in many of his stories. He even carved its name onto a boulder next to the N12 highway near Meiringspoort (outside Oudtshoorn) in 1929. This boulder known as Herrie’s Stone (“Herrie se Klip”, in Afrikaans), has been declared a provincial heritage site.

South African Cities

Potchefstroom, colloquially Potch is an academic city in the North West Province. It hosts the Potchefstroom Campus of the North-West University. Potchefstroom is on the Mooi Rivier. Potchefstroom, together with Rustenburg, is the second-largest city in the North West Province. 

Several theories exist about the origin of the city’s name. According to one theory, it originates from Potgieter + Chef + stroom (referring to Voortrekker leader and town founder Andries Potgieter; “chef” indicates the leader of the Voortrekkers, and “stroom” refers to the Mooi River).

Geoffrey Jenkins writes, “Others however, attribute the name as having come from the word ‘Potscherf’, meaning a shard of a broken pot, due to the cracks that appear in the soil of the Mooi River Valley during drought resembling a broken pot”. M. L. Fick suggests that Potchefstroom developed from the abbreviation of “Potgieterstroom” to “Potgerstroom”, which became “Potchefstroom”. However, this does not account for the appearance of “Potjestroom” on many documents and photographs.

Photo: Potchefstroom Museum

The African National Congress decided to change the name of the municipality and some street names in 2006, favouring “Tlokwe” as the new name. In 2007, its name was changed from Potchefstroom Municipality to Tlokwe Municipality.However, the city continued to use the name Potchefstroom. 

Until 1840, the towns of Potchefstroom and Winburg and their surrounding territories were a Boer Republic known as the Republic of Winburg-Potchefstroom. Voortrekker leader Andries Hendrik Potgieter was elected as chief commandant. In October 1840, after a meeting between Potgieter, Andries Pretorius and G. R. van Rooyen, it was decided that Potchefstroom would unite with “Pieter Mouriets Burg” (Pietermaritzburg).

On 16–17 January 1852, the Sand River Convention was signed between Andries Pretorius (representing the Boers) and Major W. S. Hogge and C. M. Owen (representing Britain). According to the convention, the British government would allow the immigrant farmers north of the Vaal River to govern themselves with no interference from either side. This signalled the establishment of the Zuid-Afrikaanse Republiek (ZAR) (South African Republic). In Article 17 of the Constitution of the ZAR dated 18 February 1858 (which was accepted in Rustenburg), it was stated that “Potchefstroom, located on the Mooi River, would be the capital of the Republic and that Pretoria would be the seat of government”. In May 1860, Potchefstroom became the “chief city” of the republic and the capital moved to Pretoria.

On 16 December 1880, the First Boer War began when the Boers laid siege to the old fort. The siege ended amicably on 23 March 1881. The British built concentration camps during the Second Boer War for Boer women, children, and elderly men, where more than 27,000 died of starvation and disease.

At the opening of the city hall in 1909, colonial secretary Jan Smuts was asked about the possibility of Potchefstroom becoming capital of the Union. He replied that the city stood no chance, but should aim to be South Africa’s largest educational centre. This has led to Potchefstroom’s being the “city of expertise”, with numerous tertiary educational institutions. It has hosted the annual late-September Aardklop Arts Festival, a predominantly-Afrikaans arts festival, since 1997.


This week we chat about Day 2 of the Ben 10 V3 Tour. Click to listen.


Jouberts Pass is a steep, high altitude gravel road pass located between the towns of Lady Grey and Barkly East in the quiet rural region of the Eastern Cape close to the Lesotho border in the Witteberg Mountains, which is itself a western spur of the mighty Drakensberg. Very few people traverse this pass other than local farmers and avid adventure travellers. We recommend completing the circuit, eventually arriving back at the R58 after quite a long but fabulous gravel road loop, which includes Jouberts Pass. It is best driven in a clockwise direction if the pass is going to be driven at any point after 11 am. The pass is suitable for all vehicles in fair weather, but if there is heavy rain or snow on the pass, a 4×4 will be mandatory.

* * * * *   J O U B E R T S   P A S S   * * * * *

Trygve Roberts

Words of Wisdom: “The only limit to our realization of tomorrow will be our doubts of today” ~ Franklin D.Roosevelt.Tagged under

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